With recycling and conservation being of such importance, the saying ‘Everything old is new again’ is very appropriate for the twenty-first century, and it is one fully embraced by Crossroads Construction Services.
This environmental services company specializes in clearing out harmful materials, such as lead and asbestos, in older properties so they can be turned into new developments. Co-founder Jeremy Rodriguez says it is a lot of hard work, but it seems to be paying off. Since launching as a start-up in 2013, Crossroads Construction has seen a growth of approximately two hundred percent.
The company covers Missouri and Illinois at the moment, but depending on staffing and projects, going into other states could be possible in the future. St. Louis is a competitive market, Rodriguez said, and he would not live anywhere else, after having moved here from central California a few years back.
He says employees here are all about making old properties fit for modern uses. This company creates safe spaces so that homeowners and business owners can move on with their projects and general contractors can do their best work.
“[We provide] the essential services of cleaning up the spaces so they can be utilized in a better way,” said Rodriguez. “It’s a challenge, but we love what we do.”
This type of work means staff deal with older structures and can find any number of unforeseen issues in the walls or in light fixtures. Crossroads is normally the first company in on a larger-scale project, which means there is much pressure to complete the job and then get out of the way. Pre-demolition surveys are vital to obtain as much information as possible about the structure before starting.
“The information we get beforehand doesn’t always account for everything, and unforeseen challenges always pop up. It’s a matter of identifying those challenges and working with contractors or consultants to move forward to keep projects on schedule,” explained Rodriguez.
“On one project, for example, we worked alongside the [demolition] contractor, and whenever he took out some structures, he’d find some deteriorating conditions, like lead-based paint that wasn’t accounted for because it was all closed up,” he said. “But that has to be handled prior to moving forward to meeting the conditions required for that project.”
That particular project was the new Hotel St. Louis, which opened at the beginning of 2019. The structure was built in 1892 and was used as an office building. Then called the Union Trust Building, it was reportedly one of the first skyscrapers, at 208 feet tall. It is also one of two buildings left in the St. Louis designed by Louis Sullivan, who is often referred to as the creator of the modern skyscraper.
“It’s 200,000 square feet, fourteen floors plus a penthouse and basement, and we were charged with the environmental work,” he said. “We cleared it out, and it became a signature Marriott Property, and we couldn’t be prouder to have been a part of it.”
Crossroads also works on projects in neighboring Illinois where National City is home to another project of which Rodriguez feels an amazing amount of pride at being part. The former National City Stockyards building was over one hundred years old but had been abandoned since 1959. Crossroads was handed the work of safely removing all the asbestos from the structures before workers could completely destroy the buildings.
Rodriguez marveled at the building, which at one point helped the area lay claim to being the ‘hog capital’ of the world. “That was a fascinating structure,” he said. “It was entirely self-contained. It even had its own power plant, and they’d do all this meat processing in there,” he said. “But the buildings were falling over, and it needed to be cleared out, and we got the job done.”
Another project Crossroads took on was the demolition of Huntsman Pigments, a former pigment manufacturer in East St. Louis. This asbestos abatement project included removing thousands of square feet of floor tile, thousands of square feet of asbestos-cement siding, and insulation from several multi-story boilers.
One of Crossroads’ biggest clients is the local natural gas distributor, Spire Energy. Crossroads gets things out of the way so Spire can get on with business.
But asbestos removal is Crossroads’ main business. A study from the Centers for Disease Control shows that between 1999 and 2015 there have been over 45,000 deaths, mainly from malignant mesothelioma, in which asbestos either caused or contributed to death. That is in spite of the fact that the US has been regulating asbestos exposure since 1971.
As the older buildings are repurposed, asbestos is discovered, and that is when Crossroads springs into action. The company also offers services in mold remediation, interior demolition, and selective demolition as well as asbestos testing and consulting.
Crossroads’ webpage offers advice for homeowners who want to see what they can do about asbestos in their homes. It tells the reader not to remove the asbestos on their own and offers helpful articles on what to do and whom to call. Digging into a piece of asbestos is something that should never be done, as fibers could become airborne and inhaled.
Like any business in the construction industry, Crossroads faces challenges in staffing. Finding the right people is key for any shop, and Rodriguez says it can be tough to fill the workforce.
“Staffing shortages can be consistent. We are a union company, and finding qualified people is a challenge,” he said. “Of course, we’re always looking to expand. We’re keeping our people busy, but we’re also looking for other opportunities. We’re conscious of being ambitious and not being able to find the people you need for a project.”
Because many qualified workers are already employed, it is tough when looking to build Crossroads’ own team.
Something that has helped in the staffing area was becoming a minority certified business in the State of Missouri. State projects, such as universities and hospitals, have certain participation goals, and when a contractor bids on one of those projects, the state needs to have a percentage of the project be subcontracted by or partnered with a certified minority business enterprise.
“That has helped us some, although we never intended for that to be part of the marketing plan,” said Rodriguez. “We were always more interested in performing on or above the level of everyone else in the marketplace and not rely on having to meet certain utilization goals for that sort of thing, but it’s helpful.”
Rodriguez is most pleased in helping to repurpose older facilities. He said there are a few factors to be taken into account when a development company is making the decision whether to build anew or rebuild the old. It is usually more cost-effective to use existing structures. There is also a move towards preserving historical buildings to honor that history while building something new into it.
“A lot of people are realizing that we have these treasures that we can build up as opposed to just tearing down and starting over, and there’s a lot of that going on.”